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coaching and children | Women in Coaching

coaching and children

Stories from the Front Lines – Race Day

Successful Day of Racing - Sprints 2007

This is a continuation on my theme of stories, some comical and some stressful and all of them learning experiences, about balancing family life with the demands of coaching. These stories come from a number of Division 1 rowing coaches but could just as well come from other sports, other levels, or non-coaching careers. For those of you who have been in these same situations, hopefully these will give you a chuckle or some peace of mind that others resort to similar extremes. For those of you who consider having children someday, these stories may give you a bit of confidence that you can keep coaching although sometimes it is a challenge and you may question your decisions as they impact your team or your child. This week shares some experiences and gives some advice about balancing children with the team on race day.

We put in many, many hours of training for competition. So, race day has a culmination of stresses that do not present themselves on a daily basis at practice. There is the pressure to perform, so any distractions or disruptions to routine cause anxiety. Generally the schedule is tight with only a couple minutes of leeway. However, depending on the sport, the schedule can be altered and lengthened for weather or other delays, and you have to be able to adapt. Regardless, as a coach, you have to be at your best and help the athletes to be at their best. The presence of children can be a distraction. It can challenge your ability to focus and stay on task. It tests your skills as a coach and parent. However, with age appropriate strategies, I believe that you can successfully have your children attend races. This is good, because sometimes that is the only option a parent has.

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Stories from the Front Lines: Missing Race Day

This is a continuation on my theme of stories about balancing family life with the demands of coaching. These stories come from a number of Division 1 rowing coaches but could just as well come from other sports, other levels, or non-coaching careers. For those of you who have been in similar situations, hopefully these will give you a chuckle or some peace of mind that others resort to similar extremes. For those of you who consider having children someday, these stories may give you a bit of confidence that you can keep coaching although sometimes it is a challenge and you may question your decisions as they impact your team or your child. This week looks at a coach’s dedication to her team when family-life is the priority. This week looks at just what it takes to keep a coach away from race day.

It is rare for a coach to miss practice. It takes extreme circumstances for a coach to miss a competition. However, they usually go to tremendous measures to show their responsibility and commitment to their team. When my daughter was born at 7:04 p.m. on a Friday, a week early, I was on the phone with my team the following morning for their pre-race talk. I wasn’t just lying in my bed on the phone. I had to wander the hospital hallways to find cell coverage. It was not a long conversation, but I did take time to speak with each athlete, remind them of details we had already discussed and worked on in practice, and give them thoughts for the race. After that, I had a lot of bonding time with my new-born. My husband was busy with his team’s race day schedule.

Another coach describes her experience: so, my due date was May 19th. We learned of our first ever bid to the NCAA Championships on the 17th. I was hoping to somehow have the baby before the Championships so I could at least be there to watch. The Heats were on Friday, May 27th at 8 a.m. As luck would have it, my contractions started at 2:45 a.m. on that very day. So, like a diligent first timer, I kept track of the length and separation of the contractions for the rest of the night. As the intensity and duration increased and the intervals decreased, I was hoping to be able to stay home long enough to watch the race on the internet. That was not going to happen. At 7:00 a.m., I called the team. I had a chance to talk to all nine competitors, wishing them well, reminding them to stay calm, push through the pain, and of course, breathe. Saying those words did me good as I would ask them to hold when my contractions came because they were getting quite strong. As soon as we hung up, my husband and I left for the hospital. When we made it to the hospital, I was 6 cm dilated! The fact that I was so focused on getting a chance to see the race really made the first part of labor easier, and my words of advice to the team actually helped me through the rest.

In both these cases, we had known that there was a high probability if not certainty that we would not be able to attend the race.  The teams had been well prepared in advance.  We had ironed out the details of their pre-race routine, their race warm-up, and their race plan.  We had paid even more attention to preparation than normal circumstances.  We also had excellent assistant coaches to take care of details at the competition.  In rowing, like all sports, success comes primarily from preparation.  We are fortunate, however.  Rowing is a sport in which the coach’s primary race day responsibilities are 1) checking the equipment and 2) preparing the athletes mentally before they launch.  Once the boats are on the water, they are on their own.  We do not call time-outs or change the plan mid-game.  All the coach can do is watch.  However, that does not make it any easier to miss the competition.

Stories from the Front Lines: Traveling with Kids and Team

This is a continuation on my theme of stories, some comical and some stressful and all of them learning experiences, about balancing family life with the demands of coaching.  Again, these stories come from a number of Division 1 rowing coaches but could just as well come from other sports, other levels, or non-coaching careers.  For those of you who have been in these same situations, hopefully these will give you a chuckle or some peace of mind that others resort to similar extremes.  For those of you who consider having children someday, these stories may give you a bit of confidence that you can keep coaching although sometimes it is a challenge and you may question your decisions as they impact your team or your child.

Most, although not all, of us have supportive partners who share the challenges of balancing a family with work schedule.  Sometimes we have to reach out to extended family or friends for coverage during racing season.  However, there inevitably comes a time when there is no option but to bring the child/ren on the road.  This week looks into lessons learned and some challenges while traveling with kids and the team.

My son was less than a year old for our first racing season.  My husband and I both coach, so our son came to every race.  I was determined to nurse for a year, so if we were at different venues, he came to every race with me.  I usually took him in the truck and trailer or drove separately so that I could stop when necessary.  However, there was one six hour trip, and I had bus duty.  The long bus trips were nerve wracking because I did not want him to be fussy and bother the athletes.  I also feared that he would go through all his bottles and still want to feed.  I was not comfortable breastfeeding in such close proximity to a bus full of collegiate women.  During that trip, I learned a few key tricks.  1) Food is key, so I was well supplied with bottles including: milk, dry formula that just needed water added, water and snacks (time consuming snacks like cheerios one-at-a-time are good).  2) Stay on top of diaper changes to avoid a blow out, but have a couple changes of clothes just in case.  Have a whole box of wipes because it may come to a sponge bath. Also have a supply of zip-lock bags to lock up those stinky ones.  3) It is important to stick as closely to routines as possible but also to be flexible.  For my son, meal times needed be as close to normal as possible.  Nap times could slide an hour or so.  I had to remind myself a couple of times that at some point he would sleep.  Finally he did.  4) Have age appropriate toys that ideally do not make noise.

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